The dream began in the midst of a gunfight between two small groups of soldiers. It got a little odd when I realized the enemy had decided to occupy and fortify my childhood home in the middle of the North Carolina suburbs. Instead of the slightly rusted chain link fence that surrounded the back yard, I and my company of four were balked by a new glittering razorwire fence around the whole property. The front of my mind was occupied by the plan we’d come up with for infiltrating the “compound”, but a tiny mouse-voice in the back of my mind glanced around, tapped ceaselessly for attention and peeped “Hey, um. This shouldn’t be happening. Not in broad springtime daylight. Not in this neighborhood. Where are the neighbors?”
“They’re all dead, of course. These bastards killed them all,” my “rational sense” replied. “Which is why we have to get in there and neutralize them.”
My team and I approached my house from the west; from behind the nine-foot-tall screen of magnolia bushes my elderly neighbors had planted to protect themselves from our two loud, overzealous dogs.
The razorwire fence stood just on the other side of the bushes. We crept close to the heavily-guarded gate, our M-16s at the ready. There was no door, only a gap like a missing tooth in the run of the fence. One of my fellows poked his rifle through the bushes and shot blindly; he took out two of the guards. The remaining two watched their comrades flop to the ground like dead fish, then opened fire on the bushes. I broke cover and ran at the two guards. I pointed my M-16 and shot one guard in the chest at point-blank range. He flew back in a spray of blood. The last remaining guard turned his M-9 (handgun) on me and we stared down each others’ barrels for a minute or so until I shot him high in the belly. He made a whiny sound like he’d just been interrupted and did not appreciate it. I could feel my fellows getting antsy behind me; I told them to go take the house. They burst out from the bushes and ran screaming at the house. They were instantly mown down by several M-240 machine guns. The sound was earsplitting, like steel popcorn in a tin bucket.
The wounded guard staggered, moaning, and I realized that I had shot him in the worst possible place besides maybe the groin. With a preternaturally accurate sense of geometry (and anatomy) I only possess in dreams, I calculated that my bullet had hit his stomach, large intestine, and lodged in his left kidney. No major blood vessels were damaged, so he would not bleed out quickly.
So I dropped my M-16 and approached the soldier with my hands up in an indication of harmlessness. He, wild-eyed like a trapped fox, tried to point his M-9 at me but his hand was shaking violently. I gently took the handgun and shushed him like a mother. He quieted, let out a huge, relieved sigh and said, “My name is Geoff. I’m going to die soon.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I began leading him around the interior perimeter of the fence, (somehow) out of range of the M-240s at the house, toward the driveway, which leads to the backyard. He stopped directly in front of the house. “Hang on,” he panted bashfully, painfully. “I gotta pee.”
Does it have to be now? I thought, eyeing the multiple gun barrels peeking out of the boarded house windows like the black malevolent eyes of night animals. But I didn’t verbally protest, knowing this is probably one of the last acts this dying man would undertake. Nobody should die with a full bladder.
So I disentangled myself from him and held him steady as he unbuckled his ammo belt and unbuttoned his fly. After I asked him if he’s okay to stand on his own, I politely turned away and let him do his business.
Geoff whimpered and grunted like a baby animal behind me and I felt a pang of sympathy so profound I nearly pulled his M-9 from my belt to end his misery. But my sympathy was riven in half by a shriek so otherworldly I almost realized I was dreaming. I turned to see Geoff’s face contorted with horror and pain. His urine stream was a watery red, laced with ribbons of near-black. It wasn’t trickling out steadily like urine does; it was spraying out like water from a showerhead, so forcefully that a cloud of fine spray appeared around the head of Geoff’s penis.
As if to add flavor to my growing alarm, a wind sprang up and blew the blood-laced urine onto me. I was showered with it, soaked with it, drenched with it. I let out a screech of my own and immediately regretted opening my mouth.
I suddenly bolted up the driveway toward the house, still bristling with guns, prepared in the back of my mind to be blown away, and not entirely satisfied by dying covered in a dying man’s bodily fluids.
I burst through the gate separating the back from the front lawn and ran to the hose curled up there by the back door.
My mind at this point underwent a curious halving. One half, temporarily taking control of my body, was obsessed only with getting Geoff’s blood/urine off me. The other half, waiting patiently and quietly in the back, wondered why I wasn’t being shot at and planned how to get in and retake the house in my parents’ name. After all, it was their goddamn house.
I shed my helmet, ammo belt, pack, boots, socks, and tore off my fatigues until I was completely naked. I pointed the hose at my face, had a curious double image of a gun barrel and Geoff’s penis, then the painfully cold water hit me. I scrubbed madly at my face, my neck, arms, hair, hands, body. The water smelled sweet and earthy and I attempted to inhale it to get the acid tang of blood and urine out of my nose. This of course resulted in a racking spasm of coughs as I realized rather quickly that my lungs would not accept water as a usable source of oxygen. This broke me out of the panic-circle, and I turned off the water. Shivering, panting, sodden and naked (but clean), I stood there and let the halves of my mind swap places. Where were the soldiers? Why hadn’t they shot at me? The back door wasn’t barred. Could I get in?
I began to poke around the back of the house and found a small, newly overturned mound of earth beside the air conditioning unit. I dug like a dog and unearthed a gallon-size Ziploc bag full of magazines. Svelte women in various degrees of undress graced every single cover. I chuckled to myself. “Looks like I found my enemy’s porn stash.”
Suddenly I remembered Geoff. I had left him out in the middle of the front yard, pissing blood and screaming like a nine year old girl! I stood up and, with no regard for the soldiers and guns in the house, scurried out of the back yard and back down the driveway.
Poor Geoff was right where I’d left him, still holding his penis, which by now was just dribbling thick dark blood. He was barely upright; his shoulders and head sagged deeply. I approached him gingerly, eyeing his penis, ready to bolt if it were to start spraying again.
“I’m sorry I ran away,” I said softly, again at a loss for words. I was no good at dealing with dying people.
“’S okay,” he slurred and struggled to lift his head.
I stood there clueless for a moment, then remembered the stack of magazines in my hands. “Hey, look,” I said to Geoff cheerily, holding out a copy of Playboy. “Titties.”
He managed a small half-smile, his eyes resting on something that was not the magazine. “Yes ma’am.”
I struggled to follow his gaze, then realized why. He’d been looking at me. I had not reclothed myself after my hose-bath. Mortified and mortified that I’d been mortified by a dying man, I clapped the stack of magazines over my naked breast.
“Uh, I’m… I’m gonna go back up to the house to find clothes… and you some water.”
Without waiting for a reply from Geoff, I skittered back up the driveway.
At this point the dream shifted to a nighttime newly fallen. I remained in my driveway, but the house had reverted to its proper place as my parents’ house and childhood home. The chain link fence separating the front from the back yard was still intact, so I lifted the catch and opened the gate. At its familiar clink-chuk sound, my little sister turned. I smiled and waved; she waved back from her place sitting on the grass just beyond the driveway. I sat down beside her (fully clothed) and followed her eyes to a place cradled in darkness on the far side of our neighbors’ yard.
In waking reality, our neighbors to the left had planted the magnolias; our neighbors to the right had just used the portion of our fence that bordered their yard to start a fence of their own. In dream reality, the partition between yards was no longer there. Neither was the fence between our neighbors’ and their neighbors’ yards. Ours was the end of a five-house-long strip of fenced backyard.
As I realized what stood in that pocket of darkness, the purpose of this backyard strip became clear. It was a makeshift paddock to contain two horses.
My sister and I watched them move and graze. The adrenaline-soaked anxiety that had laced the first part of my dream (a very distant memory now, like I’d dreamed it and was now awake) was eased by the presence of family and animals, but not entirely abolished. What was left was a diluted sense of unease which is, if you’ve read accounts of my other dreams, the default setting in which I operate.
“It’s so cruel to keep them here like this,” my sister said and sighed.
I agreed. I wasn’t entirely sure which of our neighbors owned these animals, but nobody ought to be keeping two large beasts of burden in a tiny suburban neighborhood.
“Let’s get them outta here,” my sister said, the weight of conviction in her voice. We stood and gently approached the horses. They were both bay (which in Layman’s terms means their coats were deep brown except for their legs and the tips of their ears, which were black like their manes and tails). One was far larger than the other. The larger one had traces of Shire in its conformation (body shape). The smaller one, with feathered feet like its companion, was cutely ponyish, but not too small to ride. My sister ran her hands over the Shire’s glossy coat and cooed to it with something like reverence. It stood sedately, letting itself be talked to and caressed. The ponyish bay seemed to size me up and deem me worthy. Of what I wasn’t sure, but it allowed me to climb on its back once I’d helped my sister clamber onto the Shire. I leaned over and unlatched the gate and we rode the horses west down our street, away from the main part of town.
I noticed a tiny constant clicking slightly below the clip clop of hoofbeats on asphalt. I turned and saw three mongrel dogs, all the same shade of mutt-brown, all low, quiet and frightened. The clicking was the sound of their claws as they trotted. I smiled warmly down at them, mentally inviting them to stay; we’d find food for them soon.
My sister yelped.
She pointed; I looked. Several men were running toward us, guns leveled.
“Run!” I called to my sister and wheeled my pony around, but my sister had trouble turning the Shire without a bridle, since she was smaller than me and it was bigger than my pony.
A single roaring shot ripped the night-quiet apart. The Shire shied, stepped back, wavered, snorted, and fell. Like a stone monument. Agonizingly slowly. I prayed that since my sister had no stirrups to tangle her feet, she could jump clear of the falling ton-and-a-quarter of horse without being crushed, but instead of jumping, she froze with fear and watched herself fall with her horse.
I vaulted off my pony and began to yell for my sister. I reached the part of her that wasn’t trapped beneath the massive horse just as my wake-up alarm began to chime. Her eyes were closed and a pool of blood began to seep out from behind her head. Then I woke up.